Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I got to DHL Inhouse Consulting

I am not sure if my career is going to be dominated by yellow and red (remember my previous company was Shell), I just keep my fingers crossed it is not going to be McDonalds in the future.

As you remember, last week I went to Bonn in Germany for an assessment center with DHL Inhouse Consulting. Some of you even sent me messages to find out what that was all about and how to apply, so I figured out I'd rather make the details of the trip public; hope someone finds it interesting and useful.

Everything started on Monday in Bonn with my crude misconstruction of German behavior. Take these three things into consideration: Germany, Monday morning and Germany. Everyone in the office was smiling and greeting me!!! How weird is that? I mean... on a Monday morning it is generally a very BAD idea to talk to me before I had my first cup of coffee. In Bonn people on the streets were greeting me - huh? Well, I allow a possibility that was because I was wearing an awesome Calvin Klein linen suit with a tie and a fresh haircut - still, I was not prepared for that.

What I WAS prepared for is that everything will be measured to the dot and it was. The process ran smoothly according to the schedule, not a minute wasted. I have always admired German punctuality (not when you live with one of them, though), but in general you can check your clock by the German schedule.

The presentations and interviews are done by consultants and project managers, which instantly signals the level of commitment the company places on the recruitment process. As Jack Welch said, recruitment is the single most important activity in any organization. I think Goldman Sachs is another company taking it seriously with up to 60 interviews when you join them.

I have never done a case interview in my life and I should tell you, it's not something you want to go through every day. I used to run assessment centers at Shell, but that was somewhat a different experience... not so stressful I believe. With a case interview you need to think of your feet and lay out your reasoning and calculations there and then. The key (as I see it) is to reveal your thinking and show the ability to look at the problem holistically. Nobody expects you to demonstrate Financial Management knowledge - if that is your biggest asset, probably you should be doing this interview at Merrill Lynch or Lehman Brothers... no... hold on... scrap the latter one... Obviously, you need to pepper your answer with the typical MBA lingo, such as "sustainable development", "win-win solution", "leverage" and the like, but you can only do this much BS - you are expected to give a concrete recommendation at the end of your verbal torrent of business school profanities. The case studies turned out to be relevant real life problems, examples of which can be found on the DHL Inhouse Consulting website. I struggled a little with "getting my hands dirty" and digging deeper into the numbers, but I am aware of my preference to go for the bigger picture. If you demonstrate the ability to think on the fly, you are fine.

The feedback and decision was instant, so walking away from their office three hours later I was given the offer and the details. HR gets involved only at the final stage when it comes to figures and contracts, and it is all polished and smooth, which sort of can be expected from a worldwide logistics leader.

One concern that I still can't get my head around is: if they stress the importance of teamwork so much, why were all the candidates given only individual assignments? Or maybe it's merely because it is only an assessment for an internship, and the "real" assessment will be more grueling, longer and earth-shattering?

Now I have four months before the start and the personal question is what I need to do to get the most of that internship experience and weigh up all the other options. There are electives, there are long- and short-term exchanges, Venture Lab, and surely I can try getting into another company. They say that options are good, they give you the sense of freedom. But when there are too many of them, they give you a headache.


  1. Hi

    Thanks for the excellent post. There are no cases found on the website.

    How many interviews you had mate

    is it just one case based interview or others also that test your prior knowledge and were you asked any puzzles


  2. Hi Sergey,
    Thanks for such a informative post.

    How many stages are there in the process?

    Case study,presentation and interview...
    Any team activity??How many more people were invited.


  3. Hi guys - thank you for the comments. There was no group activity and you should be prepared for at least two different interviews (think piece + CV discussion). Bear in mind that it is typical for assessment centers to change their structure, contents and definitely the assessors, so be prepared for the unexpected.

    Good luck,

  4. Hallo Sergey,

    Thank you for the Blog post. Can u plz give a example of a case study..what was it based on and did u do any prior preparation for the case study.

    Did they ask u some estimator. Await your reply


  5. Hi Dave - I won´t give you the exact topics we talked about in the case interviews, but if you study HBS and Wharton case books properly, you can consider yourself prepared.

    Good luck,

  6. hi Sergey,
    Are numerical n verbal tests involved during internship interviews too? if yes,what is the difficulty level.

    Nice work by you here.


  7. Hi D, there were no numerical or verbal tests at my assessment. Cheers, S



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